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Agri Authorities to Rehabilitate Abaca Industry With 2.5-M Hybrid Plantlets by 2015

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 13 (PNA) – Bicol’s abaca industry is expecting more vigor from a new rehabilitation program that puts together various government agencies in collective works toward a wide-scale propagation of hybrid planting materials targeting some 2.5 million plantlets by 2015.

The program which was launched recently by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) also involves the commercial production of antisera for abaca bunchy top virus (ABTV).

PCAARRD, the program leader, is one of the sectoral councils of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) tasked to help national research and development (R&D) efforts in the country’s agriculture, forestry and natural resources.

The PCAARRD presented the concept of the program and the accomplishments of its ongoing projects to the International Conference on Climate-Smart Management for the Uplands hosted by the city government and the Bicol University (BU) here over the week.

One of the projects is the DOST-funded “Rehabilitation of Abaca Plantation through Adoption of High-Yielding and Virus-Resistant Abaca Hybrids” being undertaken by the Crop Science Cluster of the University of the Philippines, Los Baños (CSC-UPLB).

The project includes training of cooperating agencies on standardized protocol for tissue culture to be led by UPLB. The training aims to address production issues on abaca.

It mainly involves the use of multi-location sites to showcase science-based abaca production and management system models on fertilization, irrigation and plant density. Model farms are set to be established for Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

For Luzon, the Bicol provinces of Catanduanes and Sorsogon were chosen as project sites while Samar, Western Samar, Leyte and Southern Leyte are designated for Visayas and Davao Oriental, Davao del Sur, Surigao del Sur for Mindanao areas.

These provinces are identified as the 10 leading abaca producers in the country with Catanduanes as production leader with its over 20,000 metric tons of fiber production yearly representing about 35 percent of the country’s total output, records of the Fiber Industry Development Authority (FIDA) show.

The country posted an amount of US$ 120 million in abaca export earnings last year owing to the increased demand for abaca pulp and cordage from the Philippines’ major markets, the FIDA said.

In terms of volume, the Philippines shipped out over 40,000 MTs of abaca fiber, abaca pulp and cordage last year with Bicol as the source of about 22, 000 MTs to maintain its reputation as the country’s top producer of the product.

The country’s major markets for abaca products are the United States, Japan and Germany. China, one of the biggest tea-drinking countries in the world, has been continuously expanding its imports of abaca pulp from the Philippines for the manufacture of tea bags.

Aside from tea bags, abaca pulp is used to manufacture specialty paper products for coffee filters, meat and sausage casings, currency papers, cigarette papers, filters, hi-tech capacitor papers and other non-wovens and disposables.

Cordage, ropes and twines are used for oil well and gas drilling, for binding, tying and lassoing, building construction, fishing and shopping.

Led by UPLB, among the new abaca rehabilitation project’s cooperating agencies from the educational sector are BU, the region’s premier educational institution with main campuses in this city and the Catanduanes State University based in Virac, Catanduanes.

Both state-owned universities are involved in training and extension works for agricultural and natural resources development.

Outside Bicol, the Visayas State University (VSU) and Caraga State University (CSU); University of Southern Mindanao (USM), University of South Eastern Philippines (USEP) and Western Mindanao State University (WMSU) were the cooperating agencies for Visayas and Mindanao islands respectively.

Under this project, participating agencies are using their respective tissue culture laboratories and nurseries in the production of at least 2.5 million hybrid plantlets by 2015.

In Bicol, the Department of Agriculture (DA), through its FIDA regional office based here had already been involved since about two years ago in abaca planting materials production to support the planting material requirements of farmers for the expansion and rehabilitation of plantations in the region.

FIDA maintains tissue culture production and distribution sites of high-yielding, disease-free abaca cultivars at its laboratories here, in Sorsogon City and Virac, Catanduanes.

Another project under the PCAARRD program is the “Shelf-life Study and Commercial Production of Polyclonal Antibody for ABTV” assigned to the VSU.

Funded by PCAARRD, this project aims to complement the first project by using the diagnostic kits in testing the presence or absence of ABTV in the ten identified location sites.

It is aimed at containing abaca mosaic, bract mosaic and bunchy top, the three viral diseases which affect the abaca plantations not only in Bicol but also Eastern Visayas. It also aims to prevent and control the spread of the diseases in the healthy adjacent plantations.

Dr. Calixto Protacio, the PCAARRD Cluster for Industrial Crops leader and CSC-UPLB director during the presentation said the two new projects under the new abaca rehabilitation program are aimed at further improving the production of abaca fiber production in the country.

The program, Protacio said had 19 project collaborators and coordinators from PCAARRD, state universities and colleges (SUCs) and government line agencies that are pooling their resources into collectively working on improving the country’s abaca production to maintain its industry leadership in the world.

For Bicol, FIDA regional director Edith Lomerio said these new projects will certainly add more vigor to the region’s abaca industry that is now gradually regaining its strength lost to the debilitating effects of typhoons and ABTV infestations in the past years. (PNA) LAP/DOC/CBD/

PNABicol

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